Formaldehyde testing may find vapors from new cabinets, laminate floors, pressed wood products like particle board, spray foam insulation, carpets and pads, draperies and curtains, fire retardants or permanent press additives, resins and glues, unvented fuel-burning appliances such as gas stoves or kerosene heaters.
There are small amounts of formaldehyde in most homes and businesses. If there are cigarette smoking inside or immediately outside a door that is frequently opened, then formaldehyde will be found inside.
Most people don’t have any health problems from small amounts of formaldehyde in residences or offices. However, if levels increase breathing difficulties may occur as well as throat and nasal irritation.
California bans the sale of goods manufactures with formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde in on California’s Prop. 65 List of Chemicals that can cause cancer; specifically leukemia and cancers of the nose, throat, and sinuses.
Formaldehyde has a distinct, sour odor. This order will dissipate over time.
California rules on allowable formaldehyde in products is much stricter than EPA. CARB or California Resources Board has strict emission standards for formaldehyde. Phase 2 Compliant means that formaldehyde used in the manufacturing will evaporate at 73 degrees F .
More information can be found at California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment – Formaldehyde
Buildings built after 1990 have more insulation. This means there is less air exchange with fresh air, so more formaldehyde vapors will accumulate inside. Ventilation is key: open the windows, turn on exhaust fans, don’t allow cigarette smoking, and purchase products without urea-formaldehyde(UF). Products labeled No VOC or Low VOC are much better choices. You may also see NAF (no added formaldehyde) or ULEF (ultra-low emitting formaldehyde based resins.
Formaldehyde does dissipate or off gase fairly quickly in most cases, so if your particle board kitchen cabinets are 10 years old and the doors are opened and closed frequently, then it is unlikely to have a formaldehyde problem in your kitchen.